SACRAMENTO: At least 21 of Gov. Gray Davis‘ campaign workers have been given state jobs or promotions since he won re-election in November, despite a hiring freeze and the prospect of state employee layoffs.
Davis has called for cutting a half-billion dollars from state employees’ benefits and salaries, but some of his former campaign workers have been hired by the same departments facing the cuts. Most work on Davis’ support staff, even though their salaries come from other agencies.
The administration says it’s standard practice for many governors to hire former campaign workers, and that Davis’ staff is exempt from the hiring freeze.
But critics say it’s particularly unfair for the governor to use other departments’ budgets to pay for his staff employees and former campaign aides.
“Schools will be more crowded, hospitals will be shut down and the governor is padding the wallets of his political operatives,” Doug Heller of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights told the Los Angeles Times.
The $60,000 former campaign worker Amber Pasricha now earns as the governor’s spokeswoman on Indian gambling issues actually comes from the California Environmental Protection Agency. Before last year’s campaign, she was listed as a $37,000-a-year employee of the California Consumer Power and Conservation Financing Authority.
Similarly, deputy press secretary Gabriel Sanchez saw his salary double after he returned to state government after a stint with Davis’ re-election effort.
They’re two of nine former state employees who returned after the campaign to higher-paying state jobs.
Another 12 won Davis administration jobs for the first time after working to re-elect the governor.
Heller said that’s particularly troubling.
“These are good jobs, and there are not many of them available right now,” he said. “It is totally unacceptable for Gov. Davis to be providing special opportunities to repay his campaign staff.”
Davis spokesman Steve Maviglio noted Pasricha and Sanchez earn more now because their duties have expanded in their new jobs. Other campaign workers who wanted state jobs didn’t get them, he said. And he said former GOP Gov. Pete Wilson was more generous with state jobs for campaign aides.
He also defended paying Davis aides from other agencies’ budgets, which he noted are also under the governor’s control.
But in many cases the governor’s aide has nothing to do with the cash-strapped department from which his or her salary is drawn, objected Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
“How can you tell a Cal-EPA programs analyst who works in pesticide investigation that they are being laid off so a Gray Davis lackey can take their spot?” he told the Times.
Former Department of Conservation spokeswoman Carol Dahmen is back on the department’s payroll after the campaign, for instance. But now she’s a deputy communications director organizing meetings and events for the governor. Her salary increased from $83,856 to $90,000, though she’s subject to a temporary 5 percent cut as a result of the state’s budget problems.
Maviglio said she’s merely “on loan” to the governor’s staff, but environmental groups said he shouldn’t be shortchanging resource protection, even temporarily.
Davis speechwriter Laura Adleman is paid $63,000 by the Department of Social Services, a boost from the $50,000 she earned before the campaign working for Attorney General Bill Lockyer’s Department of Justice.
Other Davis aides’ salaries come from agencies like the Department of Child Support Services and Department of Managed Care.